Will Rashford be replaced by Mason Greenwood after midweek criticism? Do Pogba and Fernandes have any energy left? Can Morgan and Evans handle United’s pace? The key questions ahead of the Leicester-Man United Champions League shootout
- Leicester and Man United meet in a high-stakes final day clash on Sunday
- United know a win or a draw will see them qualify for the Champions League
- Brendan Rodgers’ side will need to beat United to avoid the Europa League
- Both Rodgers and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer face various selection dilemmas
- United looked sluggish and listless in their midweek draw with West Ham
- Leicester’s ageing defence was beaten for pace in disastrous loss to Tottenham
It’s a straight shoot-out for Champions League football next season and the stand-out match on the Premier League’s final afternoon.
Leicester City know they need to beat Manchester United on Sunday to finish in the top four, while a draw will suffice for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
With millions of pounds at stake, there’s everything to play for at the King Power Stadium and the selection calls to be made by Solskjaer and Brendan Rodgers will be absolutely crucial.
Sportsmail takes a closer look at some of the dilemmas facing both managers ahead of the season finale.
Solskjaer and Rodgers go head-to-head on Sunday as the Champions League race goes down to the wire on the Premier League’s final afternoon
How the race to make the Champions League next season looks ahead of the final afternoon
Will Marcus Rashford start for United after midweek criticism?
United could have made matters easier for themselves if they’d taken all three points at home to West Ham on Wednesday night.
But they turned in a listless and low-energy performance to only draw 1-1, confirming that a lot of their post-restart momentum has now been lost.
Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes were among many guilty of under-par performances at Old Trafford.
In the Sky Sports studio, former United defender Patrice Evra singled out Rashford, saying: ‘I’ve not seen any harsh words yet about Rashford. He had a really poor game today.’
Marcus Rashford came in for criticism after a listless performance against West Ham
LEICESTER vs MANCHESTER UNITED
Sunday 4pm, King Power Stadium
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
- Man United will qualify for next season’s Champions League if they win or the match is drawn
- Leicester need to win the game to make the Champions League
- A draw would be enough for Leicester if Chelsea lose to Wolves
The first part of that is because the England forward had scored three times in his previous four Premier League outings, confirming his return to form after his back injury.
But Evra’s comments come off the back of fellow pundits Glenn Hoddle and Dwight Yorke suggesting that Rashford will be pushed out of the United side by Mason Greenwood.
Hoddle said: ‘I think he will end up being a far better clinical finisher [than Rashford] and in the end I think you’re going to have to put this lad in first ahead of anyone else.’
Ex-United striker Yorke said: ‘He’s better than Rashford, looking at his record now. You’ve got to understand though he is still 18, at a development stage. Having Ole there, he would guide him along the way.’
But whether Greenwood – who can play on the left side of the forward line as well as the right – will usurp Rashford in the side is a debate for another day.
Solskjaer will go to Leicester with all guns blazing and though Rashford looked a little tired on Wednesday, it’s hard to see the manager tinkering with an attack that was brushing teams aside only a couple of weeks ago for the most important game of the season.
Mason Greenwood rescued a point for United against the Hammers and has been tipped by various pundits to one day replace Marcus Rashford in the United team
Will Solskjaer be tempted to rotate at all after poor West Ham performance?
It’s true that Pogba and Fernandes, among others, were well below their best in the week. Both looked exhausted having played in every game post-restart and the creative spark was lacking.
But that doesn’t mean Solskjaer will be tempted to change what is beginning to look like a settled first-choice line-up for United.
A lack of depth in the United squad is a glaring problem for Solskjaer, who needs to strengthen in three or four different positions in the summer if his team are going to bridge the gap to Liverpool and Manchester City.
The difference in quality between Solskjaer’s first choice XI and the remainder of the squad has been exposed by recent FA Cup games in which he’s shuffled the pack
United’s two recent FA Cup games against Norwich and Chelsea confirmed their fringe players beyond the first XI aren’t up to scratch and this should set alarm bells ringing.
With that in mind, it’s highly unlikely that Solskjaer will shift from his tried and trusted line up of: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw/Williams; Matic, Pogba; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial.
Luke Shaw is the one injury concern but Brandon Williams would be able to slot in.
United’s creative spark Fernandes looked exhausted in the midweek draw with West Ham
Frankly, with Champions League qualification, and all the matters of finances and prestige associated with it, on the line, Solskjaer will go with his strongest possible team if he can.
He tried to ring the changes against Chelsea in last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final but United at no point looked like they were going to win the match. For the most part, they were outclassed.
Given the threat Leicester pose, it would be silly to repeat that.
Paul Pogba also had an off-night including conceding a penalty for handball in the first-half
How Manchester United could line up for Sunday’s final day match against Leicester
Is De Gea up to the task?
The debate over whether David de Gea is good enough to be United’s No 1 is certainly one Solskjaer didn’t want to have right now.
But the errors that have crept into the Spaniard’s game over the past couple of seasons are increasingly becoming a concern.
And inevitably, with Dean Henderson doing so well out on loan at Sheffield United, it will be a talking point that lasts all summer.
David de Gea made another costly mistake in United’s FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea
Solskjaer has to hope the latest error, allowing Mason Mount’s effort to squirm past him last weekend, hasn’t knocked De Gea’s confidence too much.
De Gea has played all 37 matches of United’s Premier League campaign so far so it’s doubtful Solskjaer will replace him with Sergio Romero for this one.
All of a United persuasion will hope and pray he doesn’t make another mistake that leaves them stuck with the Europa League next season.
Equally, De Gea could make a string of excellent saves to keep Jamie Vardy and Co at bay and redeem himself.
Sergio Romero could come in for De Gea but Solskjaer will surely stick with his first choice
Are Morgan and Evans capable of dealing with United’s pace?
Having played a back four all season, Brendan Rodgers switched Leicester to a three-man defence for recent Premier League games – with mixed results.
Something had to change, though, with Leicester initial post-restart form so sluggish they were dropping down the table like a stone.
They reverted to a 3-4-3 or a 3-4-1-2 formation but there’s no doubt that defence looked more solid before Caglar Soyuncu was suspended for his red card at Bournemouth.
In last weekend’s 3-0 defeat to Tottenham, that left Rodgers with little alternative but to play 36-year-old West Morgan alongside Jonny Evans, 32, and Ryan Bennett, 30.
Wes Morgan didn’t enjoy the best afternoon as Leicester were well beaten by Tottenham
With a combined age of 98, unfortunately they were unable to match the pace the likes of Lucas Moura and Son Heung-min provided for Spurs.
Mind you, it was a bonkers game that could have just as easily have ended 3-3 with Hugo Lloris making several great saves to deny Leicester’s attackers.
But events in defence won’t inspire Rodgers as they prepare to face a United forward line noted for their pace and clinical counter-attacks.
The onus will really be on the two younger wing-backs, James Justin and Luke Thomas, to put in the leg work and track back.
It really is a blow that Leicester are without the injured Ben Chilwell after his great season and Rodgers may go back to the four-in-defence set-up that was abandoned after their loss at Everton at the start of the month.
Jonny Evans trips Harry Kane during last Sunday’s defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
How Leicester could line up against United as they chase a Champions League place
Will Demarai Gray be the ace up the sleeve?
The good news for Rodgers is that he can fight fire with fire using a forward line that has actually outscored United’s by 67 to 64 this season despite a post-Christmas slump.
Trailing by three at half-time against Tottenham last weekend, Rodgers turned to the speed of Demarai Gray off the bench, replacing Bennett in a system shift.
He may start in place of or alongside Ayoze Perez this time, next to Vardy and Harvey Barnes in the forward line. As mentioned, Leicester created 24 shots against Spurs so they’re clearly not short of creativity.
Demarai Gray scores for Leicester in their home win over Sheffield United earlier this month
But pace could be the key to getting the better of United’s defence, not to mention set-pieces. Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof have looked culpable with their marking at corners and free-kicks, the latest example coming against Southampton last week.
If Leicester can get Barnes and Gray on the ball and running directly at United’s defence, they could crack. Likewise with the crafty balls over the top which Vardy thrives on.
Leicester know they have to win and they also know they can out-score United, so it’s no time for Rodgers to be conservative.
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